Archive | May, 2016

SPAM – What is it and why does it occur?

Spam is simply slang for unsolicited commercial email (UCE). The term ‘Spam’ actually arose from a Monty Python sketch where Spam is included in every dish at a restaurant, much like email spam is included in almost every email inbox or junk folder. Spam can come in a variety of forms but it is often linked with fraudulent business schemes, chain letters and offensive messages.

It is important to remember that not all bulk emailing is spam, a large amount is actually permission based. This means that you willingly gave your email address to the company i.e. you signed up for the newsletter or you made a purchase online and entered your email address. The main difference between permission based bulk emailing and spam is that permission based will normally send information that you are interested i.e. a sale at your favourite clothing store or similar.

Spam is rarely sent by a company themselves, rather it is sent by a ‘spammer’. A ‘spammer’ is a company that is actually in the business of sending UCEs. The company may havean agreement with the ‘spammer’ or the spammer may be using the company’s name as a disguise. These companies and ‘spammers’ use spam as they see it as very cost effective – it is much cheaper to send out thousands of emails then post thousands of letters.

Spammers can acquire your email address by purchasing it or by using software that take names and email addresses from websites, newsgroups etc. Unfortunately there is not a way that you can permanently get rid of spam, however you can do a few things to reduce the amount you receive. Using a spam blocker can certianly reduce the amount of spam you receive, however some spam will still reach your inbox. If you make your spam blocker to sensitive, it will start to block emails that you actually do want to receive. It is a good idea to occasionally check your spam folder in case there are any important emails in there. It is also advised that you do not open or reply to spam emails, or try to click the unsubscribe link. For spam emails, these actions will just advise the spammer that your email account is still active and it is likely that this will result in more spam.

If you are concerned about the amount of spam you are receiving, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Organise your Family with these top tech tips

We are all busy and with a family life definitely gets chaotic at times. Technology is a great way to get more organised within both your personal and family life. Here are some top tips on how to organise your family with technology.

1. Colour code your Google Calendar
Google Calendar allows you to schedule and colour code events. This allows you to see what you have on for that day from a quick glance. Get the kids to choose a colour and assign one colour to each child or each activity.

2. Share your calendar
Most Google, Outlook and other email providers allow you to share your calendar. Share your calendar with your spouse, baby sitter, teenagers and whoever else may need to know your schedule. You can even set the option for them to just view the calendar or have the ability to add events to your calendar for you.

3. Get the kids involved with ‘Choremonster’
Children love playing games and apps on tablets and phones, but what about an App that actually encourages them to do the household chores? Apps such as Choremonster do just this. You can set up a simple rewards point system based on house hold chores. Your children can then check in to see how many reward points they have and what chores still need to be done.

4. Keep track with ‘Find my Friends’
It can become quite hard to keep track of where your family is. Apps such as ‘Find my Friends’ allows you to keep track of friends and family who invite you to see your location. This way you can know that your family is safe or you can see if they are just running late to meet you or if they have completely forgotten.

5. Create a group list
Most smart phones allow you to create a group list in both your phone and email contacts. This makes messaging your family much easier as you can simply send to the group rather than having to select each person individually.

family, generation, technology and people concept - smiling family with tablet pc computers at home

Protect Your Data From Cryptolocker Ransomwar

Cryptolocker ransomware is unfortunately becoming more common and we are beginning to encounter it much more often. In fact, a US hospital has recently had to a pay a ransom of $17,000 to access its data again after it was infected with ransomware.

What is Cryptolocker Ransomware?

Ransomware is essentially online extortion that occurs when your computer is infected with a virus that encrypts your data. Once the data is encrypted, you are sent a ‘note’ stating that you must pay the ‘ransom’ fee to decrypt your data.

Many ransomware emails are just a con trying to catch you off guard which do not actually encrypt your files. However the more refined versions including Cryptolocker do encrypt your data and can do this in such a way that will be impossible to break without paying the fee.

How does your computer get infect by ransomware?

An email is the usual method of delivery for ransomware viruses. This email is usually targeted at the business departments that will open them i.e. an email sent to accounts with ‘invoice’ or similar in the subject.

Most of the time, it will look suspicious so we know not to open it however the offenders are getting more creative to encourage us to click. As mentioned, once your computer is infected you will see a screen that will have something similar to: “to decrypt your files, you must pay a ransom few of $x. If this is not received by (a certain date), this fee will double.” It can even have a countdown to when payment is due.

No Backup = no choice

Unfortunately, if you are a victim of ransomware and you do not have a back-up of your data, then you may have no choice but to pay the ransom fee.

Will your data be restored?

The offenders will usually restore your data back to its original format once you have paid the ransom, as they realise that people would stop paying if they found out it did not do anything. However it is important to remember that there is no guarantee that the offender will release your data and unfortunately you cannot fight this.

It could happen again

If you are a victim of Cryptolocker ransomware and pay the fee to access your data, this doesn’t mean that your system is safe from further attacks. It is common that the malicious software will also create gaps in your security, allowing future attacks to gain access again.

The only way to be certain that your system is safe is to remove your system completely and re-install, however you will need a reliable back up to do this.

How to avoid ransomware

The good news is that you can avoid ransomware with the top tips below:

– Make sure your operation system and software is up to date.
– Ensure your antivirus software is up to date and the settings are adjusted to inspect incoming emails.
– Consider using another malware scanner or security software to protect your system from threats before they can even enter your network.
– Make sure your staff are aware of this and encourage them to advise you when any suspicious emails are received. The most common example to look out for is an email was an ‘invoice’ attached.
– If possible, block exe and zip files from entering your network.
– If you are attacked by Cryptolocker Ransomware, immediately unplug the computer from the network and figure out what has been infected.

A Back-up is Vital

A reliable, secure back-up of your system is the best way to avoid the dangers of a ransomware attack. Remember that an external hard drive or simply saving recent files to Dropbox will not save all of your data.

A Cloud Back-Up will reset your system back to how it was prior to the attack, removing the risk of secondary ‘backdoor’ attacks and it can also restore any encrypted data. Don’t learn the hard, and expensive, way how important a back-up is.

Cloud back-ups are simple, affordable and vital in today’s world of online crime. Protect your data from Cryptolocker Ransomware before it is too late.